We all live inside a bubble. Not just a Covid-19 bubble but a bubble of personal space. It is human nature to coalesce around like-minded people, news, and activities. For instance, remember high school cliques? So why hasn’t humanity turned into group think automatons … at least not yet? Exposure. People discover new things through different experiences, meeting (or listening) to new people, and being coaxed into new activities. Through diversity, people can expand their personal bubble. Unfortunately, in an ever-increasing polarized world, people’s bubbles are contracting, and one of the biggest culprits is artificial intelligence (AI.)
Ever notice that Internet ads seem to be eerily connected to something you were just looking for, a frequent interest, or a pattern of behavior you have? It is no coincidence. Digital marketing has a laser focus on personalized marketing. Moreover, they have been using AI and machine learning since 2014 to make it happen. Consider Facebook’s Deep Text system. This AI is trained to read user’s posts to understand a person’s specific interests. By learning this, Facebook’s AI can serve each user content it believes the person will like, not what friends will think the person will like. Similarly, IBM Watson has a suite of products like IBM Predictive Audiences and IBM Watson Ads geared to serving specific ads that person will want. In effect, AI is pushing content it thinks a person will want to see, and it is only serving this content, nothing else. (Feel that bubble contracting?)
This use of AI employs psychographic profiling, which enables understanding the behaviors of a person such as their hobbies, opinions, personality traits, and even their political affiliation. Now ads are on thing, but how about AI serving news articles? Consider Bloomberg, it uses an AI system called Cyborg to generate about one third of its articles. Now, let’s take it a step further where the Washington Post has a robot reporter called Heliograf which has covered news sports to politics. What’s more, the Washington Post uses geo-targeting and AI to push specific articles to specific people. It started with trying to provide more local content. However, as all news feeds have learned, the more data captured about a reader, the more targeted you can become in which articles to feature in that person’s news feed. If it seems like most of the news is exactly what you want to hear, then the AI is doing its job effectively, and our exposure to different viewpoints is decreasing…. and the bubble shrinks.
Now, couple psychographic profiling with the power of neurolinguistics, and we have an AI system that knows your personality and behavior as well as the right words to connect with you at a very deep level. Imagine you are on a Zoom call. At the end of it, you get a report telling you the way each person learns, what things they care the most about, what words to use, and what items to focus on to create the strongest connection with each person. Sounds like a very powerful tool, right? Well, it already exists. Cyrano.ai has built a Zoom plug-in that uses their AI engine to do exactly this. As Cyrano.ai CEO Scott Sandland states, “Language is a behavior. It is a real, externalized data point sharing your innermost thoughts with others. Based on your past actions, large-scale computation can present you, as a user, an experience that only you can have.” Now, not only can we serve the right content or connection recommendations, we can also write the news articles, content copy, or even human communication to match your specific bubble.
The problem is if we’re using AI to match a person’s bubble, then where is the opportunity for each of us to grow our bubbles? If our experiences, meeting (or listening) to new people, and new activities are now matched to our bubbles, when is AI giving us new things or diversity? Well, AI, like all technology, is only a tool. It’s impact to help or hurt is only on how we choose to use it. If we are not actively using AI to provide diversity, then the machine will not do it. AI is not placing us in a “machine bubble,” they are just catering to our existing bubbles. If we want to break this cycle, we must look past the tools and seek whoever is wielding them. Think if we decided to use AI to present different opinions to people or news articles that provide multiple, different viewpoints. What if AI tools were provided to provide activities or connections that were just at the boundary of our comfort zone? Most people would probably give it a try, and thereby, learn and grow. This would expand our bubbles.
We do not have to lose our humanity. In fact, we can enhance our humanity by using machines to help us expand our bubbles. We are on the cusp of Humanity 2.0. Let’s use psychographic profiling and neurolinguistics powered through AI to expand our bubbles
Credit: Google News